Surviving WWII guerrillas recall the epic battle at Bacsil Ridge

April 12, 2011 1:35 am 

By Ben Cal

MANILA, April 10 – Surviving World War II guerrillas from Northern Luzon marked “Araw ng Kagitingan” (Day of Valor) on Saturday by recalling their victory over the Japanese forces in the epic battle at Bacsil Ridge against Japanese forces in La Union 69 years ago.

Lt. Gen. Ernesto Carolina (ret.), administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), said the solemn celebration held at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers in Sevilla, San Fernando City, La Union, was led by retired guerrilla leader Col. Gregorio R. Hufano, the hero of the battle at Bacsil Ridge that occurred on March 19, 1945.

The ceremony was preceded by a prayer led by Maria Juanita S. Fajardo-Rivera, PVAO chief for Northern Luzon, followed by the laying of wreaths.

Hufano, 91, is the vice president for Region 1 of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines.

The former guerrilla fighters belonging to the United States Armed Forces in the Philippines (USAFIP-NL), now in their late 80s and early 90s, remembered vividly the fiercest battle ever recorded in the wading months of World War II when they crushed the retreating Japanese troops led by Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, known as the “Tiger of Malaya” because of his conquest of many countries in the Far East during the early stages of the war.

The Battle at Bacsil freed the strategic port of San Fernando and enabled the 121st Infantry to move up to other areas in Northern Luzon where the remaining Japanese forces were holed up.

It was in Bacsil that Filipino guerrilla forces showed their gallantry in combat against highly trained Japanese troops who from 1942 until the middle of 1945 occupied Northern Luzon with impunity.

The capture of Bacsil Ridge paved the way for the eventual fall of the strategic Bessang Pass on June 14, 1945 and forced Yamashita to surrender on September 2 that same year.

With the theme, "BETERANO: Huwaran ng Lahing Pilipino," the Office of the Governor of La Union spearheaded the event, in coordination with the Office of the City Mayor, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, Philippine National Police and the members of the veterans' community.

During the program, Dr. Geoffrey M. Tilan, La Union's Provincial Administrator, announced that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan sponsored a Resolution recognizing Col. Hufano (fondly known in the locality as "Apo Bunog") as a hero (Bannuar) of La Union province.

Also recognized in the ceremony were the other gallant men of the USAFIP-NL who bravely stood at the forefront of battle in World War II.

Local governments here cited that the people need not look far to name a local hero as the "exploits of our local guerrillas are clearly written in the annals of history." They urged the youth to courageously fight in the daily battle against poverty and corruption that impede the nation's progress.

The veterans expressed their gratitude to the provincial and city government officials and staff for the remembrance held in their honor.

As the late Gen. Douglas MacArthur said: “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” (PNA Feature)



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